A lawyer at Manchester-based Pannone & Partners is representing 120 patients who are involved in an inquiry into accusations of paedophile activity, drugs and pornography in a personality disorder unit at Ashworth special hospital on Merseyside.
The inquiry was launched after a former inmate absconded last year. He implicated staff and patients in his allegations that drugs and pornography were freely available in the unit, that the system of searches had broken down, and that paedophile activity was common place. The allegations were further substantiated by an internal report.
The former Secretary of State, Stephen Dorrell, established the inquiry, which started in London last week and is due to end next April.
Pannones won a tender put out by the Department of Health to represent the interests of the patients.
Stephen Jones, who is a partner in the firm's medical negligence department, has interviewed almost half of the patients involved.
He says that the inquiry is likely to have a significant impact on the way patients with personality disorders are treated in the future.
A representative sample of the patients will give evidence in person to the inquiry.
According to Jones: “If these allegations are found to be true, then I don't think it's a case that you can turn around and blame the patients.”
He says his role in the inquiry has proved challenging. “It's very easy for outsiders to be judgmental about the patients, which leads to their voice not being heard. My real task is to get their voice and views over.
“I am seeing people who have been there up to 25 years, and they feel they are disenfranchised.”